In addition to understanding the law, there are a number of critical elements to being a successful attorney. Here are my top 10 things attorneys should know.
1 – Great Lawyers Make Great Rainmakers
You must become a great lawyer before becoming a great rainmaker. Without understanding the law and how it applies to the real world, it is nearly impossible to speak intelligently about your services.
2 – Hone Your Networking Skills
Developing your skills as a networker right out of law school can dramatically help you in advancing your career two-three years ahead of your peers. Building relationships and leveraging existing contacts can unearth all types of opportunities. Make sure you have a solid elevator speech that describes what you do and how you help people. Also, be ready and willing to find ways to help the people you are meeting. Networking is all about reciprocation, so think strategically about who and how you are helping.
3 – All You Need is LinkedIn
While social media is all-the-buzz, the only one you need to really think about is LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become the Google for business professionals. Instead of going to Google to find an attorney, people just use LinkedIn. So be sure to have a complete profile with a picture. Also, it is incredibly easy to find good connections through LinkedIn. If you are looking for introductions from your clients, connect with them on LinkedIn and see who they know.
4 – It’s All in the Planning
One of the biggest mistakes attorneys make is not having a plan for growth and success. This plan doesn’t have to be a 50-page MBA level plan, just a two-three page plan that outlines how you will focus your time on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The key is to write a one sentence objective, followed by strategies and tactics. A strategy could be to develop quality introductions from my existing clients. The tactics would then describe how, when and what you are going to do in order to accomplish those strategies.
5 – Make Yourself Accountable
Talking about your goals with your peers is another way to push yourself into achieving them. If I commit to lose 10 pounds and never tell anyone, it’s easy to back out of it. On the other hand, if I tell the people around me, I’m more likely to stick to the goal because of the possible embarrassment. It also can be helpful to partner up with someone for accountability. Find a partner at your firm or at another firm and share your goals with one another. Speak or meet monthly to discuss progress and encourage one another. This works for losing weight and also works for building books of business.
6 – Mentors & Coaches
Hiring a coach or finding a mentor can change your life! Why do all the top athletes have professional coaches? Aren’t they at the top of their game? In reality, we can all learn from more experienced people. I have personally hired four coaches over the past 10 years; it has been the best investment I’ve ever made. Do your research and find a coach or mentor that you would really get along with. Discuss issues, needs and goals with him/her and then pull the trigger.
7 – Identify Your Niche
Finding a niche is another way to grow your book of business. Every lawyer knows the top specialists in different categories. How about the best generalists? Not so much. Find an area of law you excel in and enjoy and start working aggressively in that area. Read the paper and identify the legal issues that are happening now and into the future. For example, if you are in health care law and learn about the new medical marijuana laws right away, you might have an edge getting an article published or speaking on the subject.
8 – Stop Pitching; Discuss
Stop those awful pitch meetings. No one wants to be sold. Remember, prescription before diagnosis is malpractice. Focus on learning about the prospect’s needs before saying too much. Ask open-ended questions and really listen. You’ll be amazed at how well the meeting goes. Plus, think about how good your presentation will be once you understand more about your prospective client.
9 – Grab that Low-Hanging Fruit
One of the keys to successful client acquisition is to look for the low hanging fruit. You may have clients, strategic partners and friends who could refer business to you. Before you head off to the networking function across town, make a list of all your top contacts. Spend an hour calling them to set up coffee or lunch meetings. Then, be sure to ask for introductions.
10 – Go Above the Expected
Today more than ever, you need to be a good attorney and a resource for your clients. The Godfather had a consigliore, so why not be a counselor for your clients. To have client loyalty you need to go above and beyond “the work.” I recommend finding them business, being a source of new information and investing time to know them personally. Clients are six times more difficult to find than to keep, so don’t do the bare minimum.
By thinking about and using these 10 tips, you can dramatically improve your practice. Try to execute on one or two of these to get started. I know that even a slow crawl can eventually lead to a fast sprint.